Area seniors receiving meal deliveries through food box program
More and more senior citizens in Washington and Greene counties are having meals delivered to their door each month.
They are beneficiaries of the Pennsylvania Senior Food Box Program, which provides meals and nutrition services to eligible older Pennsylvanians through Project DASH. Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, Feeding Pennsylvania and their network of food banks partnered with the online food delivery service DoorDash for the project.
“They have partnered with us across the state to support our initiatives to provide food for senior citizens across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said George Omiros, executive director of the Greater Washington County Food Bank. “Thanks to DoorDash, we’ve been able to extend our program beyond our local marketplace. It’s been a great partnership”
The program, indeed, has grown in Washington County from deliveries of 350 boxes a month to more than 1,000 a month.
“The seniors really appreciate that it’s being brought to their door,” Omiros said. “So many seniors are incapacitated or don’t have access to a vehicle to go pick up food at food banks or distribution sites. This is a wonderful opportunity to have DoorDash create a program with us where they’re helping and assisting us in getting these boxes out.”
In June, the program grew to include Greene County, where there are about 350 recipients of boxes monthly from the GWCFB, a number Omiros said he hopes increases to 500 by October.
Project DASH originated in 2018 to provide hunger relief, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to deliver food increased.
“More and more families and individuals are seeking out food assistance,” said Kelly Jones, director of DoorDash’s government and nonprofit team. “There are many reasons delivery makes so much sense, so it’s critical for us to work with partners like Hunger-Free Pennsylvania to be able to bring that to as many participants as possible.”
Jones said the amount of food delivered in Pennsylvania in the partnership’s first year equates to more than 530,000 meals.
Hunger-Free Pennsylvania is a consortium of 18 food banks covering the state’s 67 counties. It is the largest provider of meals to older Pennsylvanians through the Pa. Senior Food Box Program.
“We found through COVID, and we kind of suspected pre-COVID, that if we wanted to get food to the seniors, we had to take it to their door,” said Sheila Christopher, executive director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. “When DoorDash came along we jumped at the opportunity.”
Eligible participants include low-income individuals who are at least 60 years old and whose household income is at or below 130% of the U.S. poverty level.
Those registered receive a delivery once a month of foods such as canned fruits and vegetables and packages of pasta.
“They receive a box of shelf-stable foods that are provided through a grant through Hunger-Free Pennsylvania,” Omiros said. “It’s difficult to provide fresh fruits and fresh vegetables in those boxes. When we do our distributions in the community, we do attempt to supplement it with fresh fruits and vegetables.”
David Bork, Fayette County Community Action food bank project manager, said the county hopes to have a partnership with DoorDash established within the next couple of months.
“We’re working with our representative from Hunger Free Pennsylvania to get the ball rolling and start getting DoorDash on board with deliveries to clients,” Bork said.
Christopher said GWCFB is one of the lead agencies for the food box program as the agency has about doubled the number of seniors it can serve.
“They’ve been a shining star among the group,” she said. “When we began our partnership with DoorDash, they really embraced it. It’s just a tremendous success. We’re really proud of them.”
More than 300,000 Pennsylvania seniors are eligible for the Pennsylvania Senior Food Box, but only about 35,000 are enrolled to receive it this year.
“There’s a lot of seniors out there that we still haven’t found,” Christopher said. “We have a long way to go before we even come close to tackling senior hunger in Pennsylvania, but we’re certainly on the right track.”
To register, go to foodhelpers.org or call 724-632-2190. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact that numbr or website as well.